Efrit and I hold a special place in our "hearts" for monster movies and creature features. A good monster movie doesn't come around very often. They are usually either weak CGI-saturated garbage often marketed as a SyFy Original, or off-camera heavy slow-burners that use the Jaws effect as an excuse for a lack of innovative on-set design and mishandling of budget. Dark was the Night was more-so the latter, but carried with it a tinge of the former that made the overall product a true disappointment by the time the credits roll.
While that opening paragraph certainly didn't portray much of a positive response to the film, I actually have quite a few nice things to say about it. Kevin Durand did a great job as the lead actor, an opportunity that has been sparse for him in his acting career. Always a treat in supporting roles, I was excited to see him step in and he did not disappoint. Any flaw in this film was not on his shoulders, unless referring to him carrying the weight of the plot throughout. His character as a grieving father and estranged husband was nothing new to the drama world, but he presented it with genuine solemnity and depth. Like a silent goliath, Durand presented the character with a mute emotion that kept you attached to his moments with a sense of pity and empathy.
The plot itself wasn't bad, either. While, again, we aren't necessarily presented with anything new, the director uses his style to deliver the story in a fresh enough way that you are intrigued until the final act. The hinted behavior and clues of the creature were well-presented. The script's focus on the townspeople's reaction to the events and gradual realization of the situation was the most unique element, particularly that most of these actors held their own and helped maintain a sense of realism beyond our unnatural foe. All of these things combined had me approaching a positive grade...until the final act struck.
After a strong build and effective atmosphere was established, the script and directing took a plunge in the final act. Our intelligent leader (Durand) decides to inexplicably pile all of the townsfolk into the local church during a snowstorm in the middle of the night, with the belief this would be the easiest way to keep them all safe. Now, yes, I understand his character's desire to leave no man behind, but the actuality of retrieving every local, in the middle of the night, in a snow storm, with the creature already showing a propensity for violence that evening, is outrageous. Everyone, even those throughout the film that have been at odds with Durand, happily head to the church to bring all of the appetizers for our creature onto one big platter. It was the first moment in the film that felt like an 80's plot cliche and it didn't get better from there.
All of the characters fell into predictable tropes, saying their "calm before the storm" lines to one another as we prepare for the climactic showdown. But before you can sigh and roll your eyes, the creature shows up and it's time for the sheriff and his deputy to take on the beast. What follows is the usual plodding cat and mouse game. The creature remains hiding in the dark, slashing and biting and running and snarling, until he is eventually shot down and stabbed by Durand. We still, magically, haven't had a decent shot of the creature, other than brief glimpses of some pretty awful CGI. We then see the creature lifeless on the ground, in what looks like computer-generated origami. It was quite disappointing. We have this great build, we get this well-plotted story, and then it all falls apart in the final act and we get CGI garbage. Durand's performance deserved better.
Horror Qualifier: 6/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 4/10